A Kirk Cousins Split from Vikings Feels More Likely than Ever

Kirk Cousins Becomes 6th Viking to Win NFL Award in 2022 
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Kirk Cousins has quarterbacked the Minnesota Vikings for six seasons and wants to make it seven. But 50 days before the beginning of free agency, his return to Minnesota feels more uncertain than ever.

The 35-year-old tore his Achilles tendon on October 29th at Lambeau Field, ending his season — and the Vikings’ — while casting his career in purple into doubt. Minnesota finished 3-6 without him, navigating a quarterback carousel involving Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and Jaren Hall that never consistently hit stride.

A Kirk Cousins Split from Vikings Feels More Likely than Ever

The optimistic aspect for folks who want Cousins back for a seventh season is intent. Cousins personally, the team’s general manager, and the head coach have said they’d love to have each other in 2024. But as usual with Cousins, it’s all about the pricetag. Since arriving in Minnesota six years ago, Cousins’ paycheck has been the source of debate, almost daily, among Vikings fans.

A Kirk Cousins Split
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On the open market, even with a recovering Achilles, Cousins should fetch $40 million per season on his next contract. Plain and simple. He was on pace for 5,000 passing yards, 38 touchdown passes, and 11 interceptions, numbers that would’ve drawn MVP attention if Minnesota reached the playoffs. Daniel Jones inked a $40-million-per-year contract last year, setting the bar a starting point for all decent or good quarterbacks.

Conversely, the Vikings would rather pursue gingerly because a) Cousins will be 36 when the 2024 regular season kicks off b) He’s recovering from the Achilles tear, which isn’t a minor injury c) Age-related declines occur all the time around age 36 (see: Jim Kelly in 1996, Randall Cunningham in 1999, Tony Romo in 2016, Eli Manning in 2017, Joe Flacco in 2021, and Matt Ryan in 2021).

New Wrinkle for Kirk
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So, why does a split between Cousins and the Vikings feel palpable? Listen to their words. Cousins told Fox News this week when asked if he wanted to be back in purple next season, “I sure hope so. We’ll have to see how it all plays out. I think this league, if I’ve learned anything in my 12 years, is that a lot of curveballs get thrown, and it’s hard to predict what happens next month. This injury taught me that, too.”

That’s about as uncertain as it gets in Cousins-speak.

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He added, “We’ll see when we get to March, how everything shakes out. But I think until then, it’s just waiting until March.”

And at the Vikings’ year-end press conference on January 10th, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah talked about re-signing Cousins. “There’s a lot of factors that go into these things. It’s age, injury, but it’s also performance. How do you believe the performance will go? And there’s different examples through time and obviously you have to pay attention to the person and what he puts into his body and how regimented and detailed he is,” the young executive explained.

Minnesota has $26 million in available cap space at the moment, and re-upping with Cousins would severely diminish the prospect of adding impactful free agents unless Adofo-Mensah backloaded the extension will hefty void years.

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Adofo-Mensah added about Cousins, “All those factors go into it, but at the end of the day, you’re just taking risk. We try to measure it as best we can and protect ourselves and insure against it, but on his side, he’s trying to take less risk, right? That’s his job, and they should do that. We’ll try to find a place in the middle and see where we end up.”

Indeed, the two sides can meet in the middle on an extension, but the words just feel tentative and sheepish.

Cousins was also asked about playing for Bill Belichick, a frontrunner to land the head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons. He responded, “I’m not going to turn down an opportunity to play with a future Hall of Fame coach, but we’ll have to see where March leads. There’s just a lot of unknowns right now.”

Cousins and the Vikings should have a verdict by early March.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.